My question is about early morning seminary. When I was in school in Utah, of course, seminary was just a part of our day. We walked across the street and it was a nice break from the normal day. However, away from Utah and maybe Idaho, seminary is in the early morning hours. I have taught it here in Tennessee 3 different times. My thought is this; why? Shouldn’t these kids just be getting up in their own home and studying alone or with their families instead of being out on the roads?
Since the time the Saints first arrived in Utah with Brigham Young, education has been a priority. In the early Utah schools, the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants were used as readers. Some might assume that this was because they were more available then McGufffy’s Readers, however, that was not the reason as we can see in these words from Brigham Young when he spoke to the Saints in St. George directing them “that no infidels be used as school teachers and that the Book of Mormon, Book of Covenants, and the Bible be introduced into the schools as readers” Brigham Young. “St. George Historical Record,” September 26, 1866. LDS Archives.
However, as time went by, new laws, new taxes and public schools were created. With public schools, we lost the freedom to use the scriptures as curriculum. The Church Education System was then created to try and fill this gap.
Now we have Seminary so that kids can get some gospel education as part of their school day, whether it is release time or early morning. As to your question of why don’t they just have them get up early and study on their own? Well, you have taught Seminary, did all the kids come prepared to class? Were they all awake and attentive? Those that weren’t, do you think they would do any better on their own? Even those who would study at home, having been a teacher yourself, can’t you see the benefit that comes from having gospel discussions with others and sharing insights?
Why not study with their families? Again, because not all families would do that. Some kids come from part member families, convert families, and some have non-member parents. Sometimes families who appear to be upstanding members, can hold deep secrets of abuse and other dysfunction. Children of such families need our support through seminary and church meetings the most–to buoy them up with strength.
There is a strengthening power that comes from meeting with other to worship. If it were not so, why go to church every Sunday? Why not stay home and study with our families? Especially now with the Internet, we could just read the lessons on line, study General Conference talks, etc.
Early morning Seminary is a sacrifice, for parents, students and teachers. But it should not surprise us that the Lord has asked us to sacrifice, it has always been so. (I’m just grateful I don’t live in the pioneer days . . .) Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave these wonderful words on sacrifice in a talk by the same title:
“Today the most visible strength of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the unselfish service and sacrifice of its members. Prior to the rededication of one of our temples, a Christian minister asked President Gordon B. Hinckley why it did not contain any representation of the cross, the most common symbol of the Christian faith. President Hinckley replied that the symbols of our Christian faith are “the lives of our people.”5 Truly, our lives of service and sacrifice are the most appropriate expressions of our commitment to serve the Master and our fellowmen.” Sacrifice
On that note, thank you for your sacrifice in teaching Seminary. I’m sure you and your students have been blessed for you effort.
Note: For more information on the history of the church and education, I recommend, Revealed Educational Principles and the Public Schools by John D. Monnet, PhD. LDS Archive Publishers. John D. Monnett’s PhD is in the HIstorical Foundations of Education from the University of Utah. At the time the book was printed he was a teacher for the Church Educational System.